May 10, 2013

Links between Mycenaeans and Scandinavia

Three papers on a similar theme. An excerpt from a source mentioned in the second paper:
Det visar sig att alla undersökta svenska föremål utom ett enda - en slaggbit - kommer från gruvor och malmfyndigheter från platser på Cypern, Sardinien, Iberiska halvön, Massif Central i nuvarande Frankrike, Tyrolen samt Brittiska öarna. Kopparn har transporterats hit och i utbyte har man skeppat tillbaka stora mängder bärnsten. Fram träder en bild av en tid då internationella kontakter över stora vatten var självklarheter, och det redan cirka 2000 år innan vikingarna gav sig iväg på sina färder. [Google Translate]: It turns out that all examined Swedish subject except one - a slaggbit - comes from mines and ore deposits from sites in Cyprus, Sardinia, the Iberian Peninsula, the Massif Central in the current France, Tyrol and the British Isles. Copper has been transported, and in return it has been shipped back large amounts of amber. What emerges is a picture of a time when international contacts over large water was obvious, and there are already some 2000 years before the Vikings set off on their journeys.
From the third paper:
Both the lead isotope and chemical analyses have undoubtedly showed that the copper from the 33 Scandinavian Bronze Age artefacts diverges significantly from Scandinavian copper ores and that the copper must have been imported from elsewhere. The results furthermore indicate that there are variations in metal supply that are related to chronology, in resemblance with artefacts from Scandinavia as well as from other parts of Europe indicating analogous trade routes for copper, during the respective periods. Maritime networks and changing sources of metal seem to have been a key feature for Scandinavia in the Bronze Age.
Archaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia

Volume 40, Issue 2, June 2012, Pages 99–103

Grave Circle B at Mycenae in the Context of Links Between the Eastern Mediterranean and Scandinavia in the Bronze Age

I.B. Gubanov

Artifacts from royal burial graves Gamma and Omicron of grave circle B at Mycenae attest to cultural ties between the Eastern Mediterranean elite and that of the Scandinavian Early Bronze Age (mid- and late 2nd millennium BC). The appearance of the running spiral motif and representations of ships with rams in Scandinavia coincide with the beginning of the Mycenaean civilization. These facts, along with the finds of Baltic amber only in the royal burials at Mycenae but not in Crete, suggest that a principal role in the introduction of these cultural elements in Scandinavia during the Scandinavian Bronze Age (periods I–III according to Montelius) was played by the Mycenaean elite.


Journal of Geography and Geology Vol 5, No 1 (2013)

The Bronze Age in SE Sweden Evidence of Long-Distance Travel and Advanced Sun Cult 

Nils-Axel Mörner, Bob G. Lind

The Bronze Age of Scandinavia (1750-500 BC) is characterized by the sudden appearance of bronze objects in Scandinavia, the sudden mass appearance of amber in Mycenaean graves, and the beginning of bedrock carvings of huge ships. We take this to indicate that people from the east Mediterranean arrived to Sweden on big ships over the Atlantic, carrying bronze objects from the south, which they traded for amber occurring in SE Sweden in the Ravlunda-Vitemölla–Kivik area. Those visitors left strong cultural imprints as recorded by pictures and objects found in SE Sweden. This seems to indicate that the visits had grown to the establishment of a trading centre. The Bronze Age of Österlen (the SE part of Sweden) is also characterized by a strong Sun cult recorded by stone monuments built to record the annual motions of the Sun, and rock carvings that exhibit strict alignments to the annual motions of the Sun. Ales Stones, dated at about 800 BC, is a remarkable monument in the form of a 67 m long stone-ship. It records the four main solar turning points of the year, the 12 months of the year, each month covering 30 days, except for month 7 which had 35 days (making a full year of 365 days), and the time of the day at 16 points representing 1.5 hour. Ales Stones are built after the same basic geometry as Stonehenge in England.


Journal of Archaeological Science
Volume 40, Issue 1, January 2013, Pages 291–304

Moving metals or indigenous mining? Provenancing Scandinavian Bronze Age artefacts by lead isotopes and trace elements

Johan Ling et al.

The aim of this study is to further the discussion as to whether copper was extracted locally or imported to Sweden during the Bronze Age or if both of these practices could have coexisted. For this purpose, we have carried out lead isotope and chemical analyses of 33 bronze items, dated between 1600BC and 700BC. Among these are the famous Fröslunda shields and the large scrap hoard from Bräckan and other items from three regions in southern Sweden which are also renowned for their richness in copper ores. It is obvious from a comparison that the element and lead isotope compositions of the studied bronze items diverge greatly from those of spatially associated copper ores. Nor is there any good resemblance with other ores from Scandinavia, and it is concluded that the copper in these items must have been imported from elsewhere. The results furthermore indicate that there are variations in metal supply that are related to chronology, in agreement with other artefacts from Scandinavia as well as from other parts of Europe. Altogether these circumstances open up for a discussion regarding Scandinavia’s role in the maritime networks during the Bronze Age.



andrew said...

While the cases for an IE connection in the late Nordic Bronze Age has always been clear, this is by far the strongest assemblage of evidence for an IE connection in the early Nordic Bronze Age and the long distance link to the Myceneans in particular that this establishes is notable and was not at all the most obvious of the possiblities.

The link between the Myceneans and Bronze Age megalithic structures is also impressive.

This level of clarity makes its conclusions a solid rock in any effort to reconstruct a total picture of what was going on at this point in late prehistory.

Grey said...

Very interesting. I think the neolithic civ in Southern Portugal will turn out to be the lynchpin in this east-west trade.

Atlantis ftw :)

Matty K said...

Its not a new idea.

I dont see that it has to involve vast sea journeys, or in fact actual face to face contact. Thats not necessarily the way trade routes work. Dont forget the middleman!

Onur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Onur said...

Indo-European elites may have been more interconnected during the Bronze Age than usually assumed. This may explain the spread of the IE languages in many genetically and culturally diverse regions. Elites, then as now, were more cosmopolitan than their respective societies.

comeback said...

...this also brings to interest the possible connections or the identities of the Seas Peoples...all the regions noted of where copper is noted has itself in the same period been the speculations that of the origins of the Seas People

mooreisbetter said...

Interesting but not surprising. For years we have known about the Sardinian marker being found in males all along the North Atlantic coast (including Sweden), but only along the coast, and only where there are cultural objects from this era.

Sardinia was a center of goods exchange then (obsidian and metals), a major stopover. In other words, one can't get from the eastern Med to the Atlantic w/o passing through the Western Med.

batman said...

Don't forget that the first travels - and the consequent trade - are more likely to have originated in the north, rather than the south.

The exploration of the waterways between the northern and southern fringes of central Europe are more likely to be explored by the boat.building pioneers of the harsh north, rather than the other way around.

Adding the possibility that the caucasian genome still have its major populations in northern Eurasia the traces of our haplogroups may add some valuable corrective to the metalurgy of theese repports.

Carlino Altoviti said...

The ambra's road followed the course of the rivers non sea routes.

Average Joe said...


What is the "Sardinian marker"?

mikkelj tzoroddu said...

Also, we have to consider that Sardinians gained the ability to travel across the entire Mediterranean from XIV millennium BP. Furthermore there island, just that biggest named by Erodotus, was rich of copper and its inhabitants were skilfulls in the bronze metallurgy, at least from 3200-2200 BC, when Miceneans (if we imagine them as a kinde of greek people) were still in God’s mind.

oguns said...

If contact was made by Atlantic voyage, have there been similar finds in Denmark or Norway ? Denmark is certainly "in the way" when sailing from the Atlantic into the Baltic.

Have they also checked if the trade route couldn't have been across the Baltic and across eastern/central Europe ? While Norway and Denmark made contact with the rest of Europe by going south and west, Sweden did the same by going south and east, historically.

Grey said...

"I dont see that it has to involve vast sea journeys"

It doesn't neccessarily. Easier to have regional entrepot and trade between them so one set of ships going between for example say Crete and Sardinia and another set between Sardinia and Southern Portugal.

Apart from anything else a trade network like that could explain how the furthest links in the chain could come to be viewed as semi-legendary.

mooreisbetter said...

Sorry for not being more specific. The "Sardinian" Y-Chromosome marker is I-M26. It has been found in coastal towns in Southern Sweden and coastal Denmark, in places where there was robust trade and indicators of cultural exchange during the referenced period.

It will be fun unraveling the mysteries of these highly advanced societies that left no written record. Is it possible the culture of Mycenean traders became en vogue in the Western Mediterranean, and then spread through goods exchanges? Some day, someone might synthesize the tantalizing "Out of the East" theories with well-established theories like the Atlantic Bronze Age of Barry Cunliffe.

Remember, Christianity (a sect of Judaism) spread a variety of ways. Ditto for Hellenistic culture during Roman times. We can use historical models to approximate how the same might have happened in prehistory.

Grey said...

"The ambra's road followed the course of the rivers non sea routes."

The well-known route was the overland route following the rivers down to the Black Sea and Mycenae could have got it that way.

However most of the cases mentioned in the OP relate to metals so there may have been a second route following metal deposits around the Atlantic coast.

e.g. Ross Island in Ireland,_Killarney

So maybe Mycenae could have got amber via a sea route also - at least until the bronze age collapse when i guess this trade route may have ended for a while?

batman said...

Herodot, citing Homer and Hesiod, gave us the oldest written repport still existing - about the trade-route from the Naltic to the Mediterranean. His route coincide wtih the Vistula/Weichsel river-route to Donau - and thus "The Bay of the Veneti" - also known as Venedi, Vends or Venejä, the latter a finnish word for "russians". The Sarmatian and prob. the Schytians where roman and greek words for the southerns tribes of these "russians", i.e. vendic-speaking people, whoich would be uralic.

Herodotus Book 4: Melpomene:

"33. But much more about them is reported by the people of Delos than by any others. For these say that sacred offerings bound up in wheat straw are carried from the land of the Hyperboreans and come to the Scythians, and then from the Scythians the neighbouring nations in succession receive them and convey them Westwards, finally as far as the Adriatic: thence they are sent forward towards the South, and the people of Dodona receive them first of all the Hellenes, and from these they come down to the Malian gulf and are passed over to Eubœa, where city sends them on to city till they come to Carystos. After this Andros is left out, for the Carystians are those who bring them to Tenos, and the Tenians to Delos. Thus they say that these sacred offerings come to Delos; but at first, they say, the Hyperboreans sent two maidens bearing the sacred offerings, whose names, say the Delians, were Hyperoche and Laodike, and with them for their protection the Hyperboreans sent five men of their nation to attend them, those namely who are now called Perphereës and have great honours paid to them in Delos."


6000+ years old amber-road(s):

andrew said...

Any estimates out there of how long it would take roundtrip?

mr. Knows When said...

The sea-route for tin from Cornwall is feasible, but not the Mycenaean Bronze objects.

These might have transported along the amberoute through Germany. It might have been connected by a sea trade route across the Baltic sea with Southern Sweden.

In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern they have found half-products of tin in a battlefield site along the Tollense river dating 1250 BC.

batman said...

The river-mounth of Vistula/Weichsel/Wizla used to have the "largest city in N-Europe". The reason was the connections via the river to the eastern Alps and the Donau.

Downstreams Donau they reached Trans-sylvania, the Black Sea and the Greek culture - which used to entangle Anatolia down to the Levant, as well as today Greece/Makedonia.

Upstreams Donau they reached Vindabona and the Venetic Bay, which seems to have been the main route between the Baltic and the central Medi-terra-nean.

Then there were a frequent trade through from the Baltic Vends - through their cousins of the Sarmatian/Schytian area - along the Dvina/Djepr rivers.

Geronimo said...

Sheer speculation but I'd have thought the most practical route for such trades was by sea via Malta (?) i.e. proto-Phoenician routes-- to the south coast of what is now France, then overland to Denmark etc

Grey said...

"but I'd have thought the most practical route for such trades"

I think the river route from the Black Sea to the Baltic is well-attested and makes perfect sense but if there was a sea route *as well* then it could be the whole voyage in one go but as you say it would be more practical to take advantage of existing settlements along the way like Malta.

However taking that idea a stage further, if there was *already* a pre-existing trade network along the Atlantic coast associated with maritime Bell Beaker

then there'd only be a need for people in the east med to sail to the closest connecting point e.g. somewhere like Malta, Sardinia or Sicily.

If that Atlantic trade network declined later perhaps as a result of the late Bronze Age collapse then overland routes could carry on as before and the sea routes forgotten for a while until restarted by the Phoenicians.

Vegard Ryan said...

I belong myself to the mtDNA haplogroup U1b. And at the same time I can trace my maternal lineage back to around 1700 and to a distinct geographical area on the west coast of Norway. My hypotesis before was that the U1b haplogroup may have arrived there during the viking age.
But from the few samples of U1b I have available I have more markers in common to a few Italian samples. Compared to a couple of samples from around the Black sea. (Russia/Ukraine/Turkey.) So these findings open up more oportunities as to how, when and from where my U1b haplogroup arrived here....

eurologist said...

I'd have thought the most practical route for such trades was by sea via Malta (?) i.e. proto-Phoenician routes-- to the south coast of what is now France, then overland to Denmark etc


Yes, certainly, there were many trade routes and I am sure traders defaulted to the most well-established and safest ones - both in terms of voyage and attack risk. E.g., you can travel up the Rhone/Saône river where upstream there are several opportunities to cross on land to some of the tributaries of the Rhine. You can also just walk (use a cart) a couple of miles on a flat plateau between the upper Danube and the Neckar - which flows into the Rhine.

If that Atlantic trade network declined later perhaps as a result of the late Bronze Age collapse then overland routes could carry on as before and the sea routes forgotten for a while until restarted by the Phoenicians


I agree with you that collapse of certain Bronze Age cultures would have a large impact on trade route dominance. For example, the post-Thera expansions of the Greek and Italic languages, the Tumulus culture / Celtic languages and the Phoenicieans may very well have been a direct or indirect result of the sudden change in trade networks.

eurologist said...

mr. Knows When,

Thanks for the link. The two-episode program was quite entertaining and even a little informative (obviously a broad target audience). A couple of things I didn't like:

- Obviously there were several routes that avoided the alps altogether (rather than using locally known river systems from the NW Balkans that meet in Tyrol on both sides). Yes, the melting glaciers have revealed several bronze age and early iron age passes through the alps - but that does not mean those were long-distance trade routes.

- Which brings me to the second point: surely, most trade was done by knowledgeable locals between trading posts, and not long distance except certain portions of sea voyages. But, I guess they wanted to highlight the ancient Egyptian manuscript and the Bavarian trade city. The fact that this city is located on the Ammer (close to the Isar) is also weird, since using the Inn directly involved one or two fewer passes (e.g., Mittenwald) in the connection with South Tyrol.

- While central/ northern Europe was relatively sparsely populated compared to contemporaneous metropolises/poleis of the Mediterranean, it was anything but a primeval forest. Almost all river plains, from the largest to the smallest, were dotted with collections of farming houses except on the poorest soils. Even a millennium before, due to population pressure, people had moved to higher elevations, started clearing forests on a large scale on decent soils with moderate slopes, and in the northern plain even moved into sandy soils in some locations.